Chuck Etchells Racing Post Atlanta Story

BAZEMORE COMES WITHIN A HAIR OF VICTORY IN ATLANTA Commerce, Georgia, May 16, 1999 - One thousandth of a second is an infinitesimal amount of time. It takes longer to say it than for the time to pass. In the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing,...


Commerce, Georgia, May 16, 1999 - One thousandth of a second is an infinitesimal amount of time. It takes longer to say it than for the time to pass. In the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing, it is the smallest increment used when measuring elapsed time or margin of victory. Therefore, one can understand Whit Bazemore's confusion following the final round of this past weekend's Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals. Matched against 8-time Funny Car champion John Force and without the benefit of lane choice, the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 wheelman knew it would take an outstanding run to capture the win. After Bazemore gained an early advantage at the start, his racecar fought to maintain traction on the hot and slippery Atlanta track, and the resultant tire-spin allowed his rival to edge slightly ahead. But soon Force, too, fell victim to tire smoke, and Bazemore narrowed the gap, with the two vehicles hurtling down the track as if welded together. The cars crossed the finish line in a virtual dead heat, with the scoring computers awarding the victory to Force by a mere thousandth of a second, much to the surprise of Whit Bazemore.

"I honestly thought I had won, because I never saw him," stated Bazemore. "Usually when you get beat, especially by John Force, you can see your opponent out in front of you. Since I didn't, I thought maybe he had smoked the tires earlier, and that we'd gotten lucky. We have a little win light mounted on the wall that comes on about 100 feet past the finish line which can be very hard to see since you whiz by it at about 300 (miles-per-hour). I looked at it and it didn't come on. My first thought was that there was no way that I red-lit and disqualified myself, so the light bulb had to be burned out. But it wasn't, so I guess it was very, very close.

We had been fighting to get our Kendall Camaro down the track all weekend. In the final, I had a good start and the car ran good numbers early on. But then the motor wasn't totally happy, so we lost a little bit of horsepower. We spun the tires pretty hard as well, as everyone seemed to be doing in the left lane. It was definitely a one-lane racetrack today, but we're not going to use that as an excuse. To beat John Force, you have to be absolutely perfect - a perfect driver and a perfect car. We just have a little bit of work to do on both accounts to get to that level. We'll just keep chipping away at it. This Chuck Etchells team gave me a really good car today, and we just came up a thousandth of a second short."

The run against Force marked the end of a productive weekend for the Etchells crew. In qualifying, they battled changing weather conditions as they sought to tame a less-than-cooperative racing surface. Their hard work was rewarded with improved elapsed times on each run, culminating in a 5.093-second effort which placed Bazemore fourth on Sunday's final eliminations ladder. For the second straight race, the Kendall entry would face Ron Capps in the opening round. Although Capps left first, the outcome was never in doubt as Bazemore's 5.112-second E.T. (compared to Capps' 5.380) was more than enough to overcome his opponent's head start. However, Bazemore did lose lane choice, as Jim Epler had a slightly quicker pass in his opening win. However, co-crew chiefs Tim and Kim Richards produced a nearly perfect tune-up, and Bazemore used the quickest run of the day in the dreaded left lane at 5.097-seconds, to eliminate Epler's Corvette. Bazemore did his part in the semi-finals, welding Scotty Cannon at the starting line to score an exciting hole-shot victory, which propelled the Atlanta native into his first final round of the season.

"Naturally, it's frustrating. We were as aggressive and as good as we could be, and missed by a thousandth of a second," explained Bazemore. "You never like to lose, but this Kendall Camaro team did a great job throughout the event, and we made good progress on our hot rod. On that account, we had a very, very good weekend. This is an outstanding team, and I know we can win. There are a lot of good cars out here besides Force, so we just have to stay focused and committed to doing well and winning races. We have to work on improving every time we run the car. If we do that, we'll be the ones getting the trophy."

The NHRA's best will be back in action next weekend as they move on to Englishtown, New Jersey for the Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park May 20-23.

Funny Car Points Standings (As of 5/17/99): 1. J. Force - 760, 2. T.Pedregon - 621, 3. (tie) Whit Bazemore - 448, 3. (tie) Cruz Pedregon - 448, 5. D. Skuza - 356, 6. C. Lee - 322, 7. D. Worsham - 309, 8. F. Pedregon - 306, 9. G. Densham - 281, 10. D. Creasy - 279.

Big Bud Shootout Points (As of 5/17/99): 1. J. Force - 2,100, 2. C. Pedregon - 1,950, 3. Whit Bazemore - 1,925, 4. T. Pedregon - 1,800, 5. R. Capps - 1,590, 6. D. Skuza - 1,535, 7. T. Wilkerson - 1,490, 8. A. Hofmann - 1,400, 9. D. Worsham - 1,375, 10. J. Epler - 1,280.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon